Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Wisconsin Wildlife
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Wisconsin Wildlife Project

Transmission and evolution of a persistent pathogen: anthrax infection dynamics comparing two natural systems

August 2018 - September 2024


Participating Agencies

  • University of Wisconsin - Madison

Anthrax is a globally distributed disease of wildlife, livestock, and humans. Successful prediction of and response to outbreaks of anthrax is limited by a lack of understanding of the geographic differences in the ecology of the pathogen as well as the pattern of disease outbreaks. This project will investigate the roles of host, pathogen, and environment to understand how the pathogen - host interaction evolves and contributes to the differences in anthrax occurrence between two study areas. The two areas, both in southern Africa, have very different anthrax outbreak dynamics, which are representative of variation in anthrax systems world-wide. In Etosha National Park, Namibia, there are smaller outbreaks, affecting grazing zebra, annually in wet seasons. In contrast, in Kruger National Park, South Africa, larger outbreaks affecting browsing kudu occur in dry seasons on roughly a decadal scale. The project builds on detailed records of population dynamics in each park as well as archived pathogen samples and will involve new data collection and analyses and mathematical modeling to understand these different dynamics. Education, training, and scientific and public outreach are essential components of this research. Postdoctoral researchers and undergraduate and graduate students from diverse backgrounds will be trained in field, laboratory, and quantitative techniques emphasizing cutting-edge genomics, and statistical and dynamic modeling approaches.

Research Publications Publication Date
Turner, W.C., P.L. Kamath, H. van Heerden, Z. Barandongo, Y.-H. Huang, S.A. Bruce and K. Kausrud. 2021. The roles of environmental variation and parasite survival in virulence-transmission relationships. Royal Society Open Science, 8: 210088. | Abstract | Publisher Website June 2021
Huang, Y.-H., H. Joel, M. Küsters, Z. Barandongo, C.C. Cloete, W.M. Getz, A. Hartmann, P.L. Kamath, J.W. Kilian, J.K.E. Mfune, G. Shatumbu, R. Zidon, and W.C. Turner. 2021. Disease or drought: environmental fluctuations release zebra from a potential pathogen-triggered ecological trap. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B. Biological Sciences, 288: 20210582. | Abstract | Publisher Website June 2021
Bruce, S.A., Y-H. Huang, P.L. Kamath, H. van Heerden and W.C. Turner. 2021. The roles of antimicrobial resistance, phage diversity, isolation source and selection in shaping the genomic architecture of Bacillus anthracis, Microbial Genomics, 7:000616. DOI: 10.1099/mgen.0.000616 | Abstract | Publisher Website August 2021
Theses and Dissertations Publication Date
Yen-Hua Huang. 2022. Effects of Environmental Fluctuations and Herbivore Ecology on Anthrax Dynamics in Southern Africa. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison. May 2022